First comes love . . .

I'll be the first to admit that one of my weaknesses as a photographer is taking pictures of people. There are so many variables that are difficult to control when a person is the subject of a photograph. Lighting, pose, background, depth of field, etc. etc. etc. Consequently, I have not had much experience taking pictures of people, as most of my best images are more along the lines of "still life." Still, when a friend of mine was planning to propose to his girlfriend, he asked me to take pictures of the event. Considering that he introduced me to my wife many years ago, I figured I owed him and agreed. Because I don't regularly take pictures of proposals, there were some lessons I learned during the experience. If you're thinking about delving into the world of proposal photography, here are a few things you might want to consider: 1. Location, location, location Usually, the photographer does not get to pick the location...
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Nature up Close

When you think of nature, what's the most impressive thing that strikes you about it? Is it the grandeur of the landscapes? Is it the minutia of the small components that make up the world? For me, it's definitely the scale of nature that always strikes me as majestic. I can climb a mountain that towers above the plains; but even on the peak of this mountain, I can find the tiniest flowers. In focusing on the small elements of nature, I've found some fascinating photographs. While climbing Mount Bierstadt, I came across this grass covered in frost. Even before I had my DSLR camera, I found a setting on my point-and-shoot digital camera that could be used for macro photography. Being able to get close to something and capture it in a picture felt like I had the world under a microscope, even if the capabilities of the camera were limited. Ice is fascinating to photograph, especially with the right lighting. One of the...
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Trees are the Answer

If this is the case, what is the question? I’m sure there are plenty of Jeopardy-esqe responses to this, but the question I’m referring to is this: What is one of the most difficult common objects to photograph? One of the challenges of photographing trees comes in their grouping. A picture of a forest is neat, but unless there’s a subject, what’s the point of the photo? In Colorado, we’re definitely in a time of year where the fall colors can be the subject of a picture, but even this can sometimes be a challenge to capture without focusing on something specific. Sometimes the color of the trees can be your subject. Over the years, I’ve found a few ways to take pictures of trees to overcome this “subject-less” challenge. The secret lies in composition. Take the above photograph, for example, it’s a pretty generic photograph of some aspen in the fall. However, because the trees are backlit, the ones in the...
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Painting with Light

One of the limitations I had with my photography years ago was that I couldn’t take good pictures at night. Part of this was due to the limitation of my camera: a point-and-shoot Olympus that I didn’t know how to fully use. Sure, there was an automatic setting for “night” that I occasionally utilized, but often the pictures I would get were more based on luck than anything else. Once I was able to dive deep into the settings of the camera, I found I could manipulate them to take the pictures I wanted. Still, the camera had reached the limits of its capability and I moved to a Nikon D7000 DSLR. With a DSLR, pictures of cities at night are quite easy to create. Now that my camera’s settings were much easier to control, I found the art hidden within night photography: painting with light. Due to the minimal amount of photons hitting the focal plane of the camera, long exposures...
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How to see in Black and White

There’s something in the simplicity of Black and White photography that speaks to the art of the medium. Maybe the removal of colors accentuates the composition? Maybe the monochromatic tones show more than initially captured? Maybe it’s an act of getting back to the roots of photography? Whatever the reason, there is a simple charm and stark boldness in Black and White photography. This image received 1st Place in a Black & White Contest, partly due to the contrast of light and darkness. Over the years, I’ve been able to train myself to see which pictures are best suited for the Black and White conversion. Back when I was photographing with a point-and-shoot Olympus C770, I would occasionally take pictures with the “Black and White” filter. At the time, I didn’t have the post-processing tools I needed to create stunning Black and White photographs, so I relied on the simple (and limiting) in-camera filter. Now, with the help of Photoshop, I have...
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The Wildlife Challenge

While I enjoy capturing wildlife with my camera, I can attest that these subjects are the most difficult to shoot. Perhaps this is why the terminology between hunters and photographers is the same in this respect. There are a number of reasons why photographing wildlife is a challenge. First, the fickle nature of animals means they can be unpredictable. You’re never quite sure when they’ll appear, and when they do, it’s uncertain how long they’ll stick around (birds are often the most challenging in this respect). It’s almost like Pokémon: certain animals are more common in specific areas, but you’re still never guaranteed to run across one if you’re going out to photograph it. As you can see, this ptarmigan is good at camouflaging itself with its surroundings. Secondly, wild animals aren’t used to humans. Much of the time, we move quickly and with jerky motions, both of which can scare off wildlife. We tend to be loud as well (in how...
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Tricking the eyes

I'll be the first to admit that Photoshop (or the post-processing program of your choice) is a powerful tool. There’s a lot that it can do to help a photograph reach its full potential. From color-balance to adjustments in light and shadow, Photoshop helps make a good picture great. Even slight composition errors can be fixed with Photoshop (usually through a bit of cropping to achieve the “rule of thirds”). All this being said, for a long time I was a staunch supporter of “pure” photography; that is, presenting a photograph as it was taken by the camera, with no adjustments or tweaks made after the fact. With the public outcry of Photoshopping pictures so people appear more “beautiful” than they really are, I certainly can see the benefit of pure photography representing the world as it really is. This double exposure was aided by some post-processing of the colors and shadows. Of course, once I started to see my pictures pop...
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Fun with a Fish-eye lens

Of the variety of lenses I own for my camera, I would have to say that the wide angle (or fish-eye) lens is perhaps the most fun and the most challenging to use. There are a number of interesting effects that can be achieved with a wide angle lens. Cramped spaces can suddenly be captured in a single frame, extreme close-ups can focus on a single object while also showing the world around it, linear compositions can become twisted and distorted. While all of these aspects are interesting to the photographs I produce, I find that it's actually quite challenging to set up the right shot. With every other lens I own, it's easy to mentally frame the shot I want just with how I see the scene with my eyes. With a wide angle lens, that's not the case. Because the wide angle lens distorts everything that isn't in the center of the frame, it can be difficult to know...
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